Motorists should prepare vehicles now for winter driving

Submitted by Shawn Steward

October is Car Care Month, and with overnight freezing temperatures and frost in the forecast in parts of Kansas during the next few days, now is an ideal time for a seasonal checkup of key vehicle systems to ensure worry-free driving once cold weather and winter driving conditions approach, according to AAA Kansas.

“AAA Kansas recommends motorists use a simple checklist to determine their vehicle’s fall and winter maintenance needs,” said Shawn Steward, AAA Kansas spokesman. “Many of the items on the list can be inspected by a car owner in less than an hour, but others should be performed by a certified technician.”

Vehicle owners should read the maintenance requirements set by the car’s manufacturer in the owner’s manual. There is no longer a “standard” maintenance schedule for vehicle services – including brake fluid. Each automaker has different requirements, making the owner’s manual the most accurate resource.

In-vehicle maintenance reminders provide good guidance because they account for real-time problems and how you actually drive. However, many reminder systems do not specifically cover maintenance operations that need to be performed on a time or mileage basis – such as brake fluid and coolant flushes or timing-belt replacement.

Harsh winter conditions make your vehicle work harder, particularly the charging and starting system, headlights, tires and windshield wipers. AAA Kansas recommends that motorists check the following vehicle systems:

• Battery: Clean any corrosion from battery posts and cable connections and wash all surfaces with battery terminal cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water. Have the battery checked by a professional to ensure it is strong enough to face cold weather.

• Tires: Examine tires for tread depth, uneven wearing and cupping. Check tire pressures once a month when tires are cold, before driving for any distance.

• Engine: Have any engine drivability problems corrected at a good repair shop. Symptoms like hard starts, rough idling, stalling or diminished power could signal a problem that would be exacerbated by cold weather. Engine hoses and belts should be inspected for wear or cracking.

• Fluids: Important system fluids such as engine coolant/anti-freeze, transmission and brake fluid should be checked and changed at recommended intervals.

• Exhaust: Have your mechanic check the exhaust system for leaks and look for any holes in the trunk and floorboards.

• Brakes: Inspect brakes as recommended in your owner’s manual, or sooner if you notice pulsations, pulling, noises while braking or longer stopping distance. Correct minor brake problems promptly.

• Wipers: Replace worn windshield-wiper blades. Purchase one-piece beam-type or rubber-clad “winter” blades to fight snow and ice build-up. Use cold-weather windshield washer solvent and carry an ice-scraper.

• Lights: Inspect all lights and bulbs and replace burned out bulbs. Clean road grime or clouding from all lenses.

According to Steward, now is also a great time to begin assembling an emergency kit equipped for winter weather to carry in your vehicle. This kit is especially important if you’ll be driving any distance and winter weather is forecast. The kit should include:

• Mobile phone pre-programmed with rescue apps and important phone numbers including family and emergency services, and car charger

• Drinking water

• First-aid kit

• Non-perishable snacks for both human and pet passengers

• Bag of abrasive material (sand, salt, cat litter) or traction mats

• Snow shovel

• Blankets

• Extra warm clothing (coat, gloves, hats, scarves)

• Flashlight with extra batteries

• Window washer solvent

• Ice scraper with brush

• Cloth or roll of paper towels

• Jumper cables

• Warning devices (flares or triangles)

• Basic toolkit (screwdrivers, pliers, adjustable wrench)

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